South Korea

Travel Profile (total)

  Yr/Yr % Chg
Visitor Spending (2016p) $1.05 billion -
California Market Share (2015) 24.5% -
Visitors to California (2016p) 470,000 -
2017 Visitation Forecast (% change vs. 2016p) 496,000 +5.5%
2021 Visitation Forecast (% change vs. 2016p) 601,000 +27.9%
2021 Spending Forecast $1.4 billion -

(updated May 2017)
U.S. Department of Commerce; Tourism Economics 

Leisure Travel Profile (66% of total)  

Vacation/Holiday 77% 114
Hotel/Motel 53% 72
Average Length of Stay - Nights 11.1 88
Average Spend Per Trip $1,505 76
Average Destinations Visited Per Trip 3.1 100
Average Party Size 2 117
Travel with Children 20.2% 150

Sources: U.S. Department of Commerce; CIC Research, Inc.



Market Conditions

South Korea GDP Quarterly Growth Rate
South Korean Won

Korea continues to grow, with annual GDP growth estimated to reach 2.7 percent in 2016 and even further growth in 2017. In the long term, the GDP annual growth rate is projected to trend at 3 percent in 2020.

Due to positive signs of market conditions, the number of Korean outbound travelers is expected to grow at a rate of 20 percent, surpassing 22 million in 2016 and reaching 25 million in 2017, according to Korea Tourism Organization.

  Check current exchange rates on

  • The won remains stable with the average exchange rate of the U.S. dollar; one U.S. dollar is marked at KRW1,162 in 2016
  • For 2017, the Korea Institute of Finance forecasts that the U.S. dollar to Korean won exchange rate will be an average annual rate of KRW1,165, as the U.S. dollar is surging in value with the rising interest rates
Source:, Korea Tourism Organization



Competitive Landscape


Market Barriers

  • Europe, with significant increase in arrivals to Eastern and Northern Europe (history, culture, culinary, shopping, FIT including solo travel)
  • Canada (nature, family, senior group travel, special interest travel)
  • Australia and New Zealand (nature, family, FIT including solo travel)
  • Resort destinations such as Maldives, Hawaii, Thailand (honeymoon, relaxation)
  • Political uncertainties elevated over President Park’s scandal have increased downside risks to the country’s economic growth, weakening the consumer confidence and foreign investments
  • Koreans’ preference and tendency to take short vacations of five days or less
  • Increased competition in market as low-cost carriers are introducing new, attractive short and medium haul destination options
  • Due to safety concerns, new destinations are being introduced, including Hungary, Iceland, Croatia, Slovenia and Argentina
  • Fear of accidents involving firearms in the United States



Risk Factors

  • In the longrun, international competition coupled with a slower-growing domestic market could lead to increased levels of economic risk.
  • The threat of attack from North Korea continues to push up South Korea’s political risk ratings






  • 62 weekly nonstop flights from four airlines to two gateway cities of California
  • 23,059 weekly nonstop seats
  • Korean Air will schedule an additional direct flight to Los Angeles five times a week from June 2017, and to San Francisco, five times a week from April
    • This will be extended to 6 times weekly from May, then to daily from September 2017
    • For these additional flights, Korean Air will fly its newest aircraft, Boeing 777-300 ER
  • By September 2017, 68 weekly nonstop flights to California (40 to Los Angeles and 28 to San Francisco) are expected
  • Asiana Air has changed its aircraft to A380 for its Los Angeles flight, starting October 2016, bringing 150 additional seats daily to California
  • Singapore Air has launched nonstop flights between Seoul and Los Angeles; SIN-ICN-SFO flight has been re-routed to operate as a SIN-ICN-LAX service as of October 2016
  • Airlines operate additional flights in the July to August summer high season (20,992 weekly nonstop seats)
  • California is a popular destination year-round for visiting friends/relatives and business-leisure market (booking time frame is evenly spread)
  • April–June for vacations between July to August and Sept.-Nov. for vacations between December to February are the main booking periods
  • Over 80 percent of bookings for California tour packages, air tickets and hotels are made online
  • Top 20 travel agents handle over 80 percent of outbound package tours



Other Market Insights

  • Market:
    • Outbound trips are growing, with Korea the second largest outbound country in Asia
    • Korea Tourism Organization reported outbound trips from January to October 2016 totaled 18.5 million, a 17 percent increase from the same period of 2015, forecasted to reach 22 million in 2017 (equivalent to 40 percent of the total population)
    • The Korean travel market is highly seasonal
      • Seasonality is especially seen with longhaul destinations, where more than five days holiday is required
      • Peak travel times are summer (between July and August) and winter (between December and January)
      • Other peak periods include two main national holidays: Lunar New Year’s day and Chuseok (Korea Thanksgiving), which fall in January/February and in September/October respectively, depending on lunar calendar
  • Audience:
    • Mobile spending overall rising dramatically, with travel part of the increase
      • Statistics Korea reported the online transaction of Korean consumers for the first two quarter of 2016 reached $26 billion, an increase of 19 percent, compared to the same period in 2015
      • For that period, mobile purchases exceeded $13 billion, a 38 percent year-over-year increase, representing 50 percent of the total online turnover
      • Transaction for “Travel arrangement and reservation services” increased by 18 percent via online, and 46 percent via mobile
  • Product Experience:
    • Rise in FIT travels impacts experiences offered
      • With the dramatic growth in FIT travels in Korea, changes in travel behavior and trends are visible; shifting from cookie-cutter tour products to authentic, inspirational and experiential travel
      • Target segments for travel agencies have become diverse, extending to special interest travelers, solo and elderly travelers.
  • Communication:
    • TV influence still strong on destination selection
      • The influence of TV is significant and is particularly strong in the tourism sector in influencing destination selection
      • Travel was one of the two keywords that dominated the media in 2016
      • As per Skyscanner, the destinations where the reality travel shows were filmed, showed dramatic increase in search rate for airline tickets

Source: Korea Tourism Organization,




Network in the Community

It's where California's travel industry connects and shares business insights.

Visit Today

Get Free Publicity

Put your content in front of more than 9 million visitors a year on

Submit Content

Research Dashboard

Our monthly report highlights key tourism industry indicators to help you plan.

Subscribe Today

Marketing to China

Did you know that in 2016, 1.3 million visitors from China came to California?

Market Info
Thank you to our Golden State Sponsors:
MeringCarson Time Inc